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Magic Words That Increase Your Sales

The Questions Are The Answers!

The Small Street Journal
New Castle County Chamber of Commerce
Cedar Tree Press, January 1998, Page 2

Sales techniques have changed drastically during even the last five years.  The old selling style went something like this: The salesperson talks, the customer listens, the salesperson "makes the pitch," and the customer does or doesn't buy.  In the old style, the salesperson tries to win or sell to the customer.  However, the philosophy doesn't work as well with the business owners and buyers of today.  Now selling isn't "selling" - it's fulfilling the needs and wants of the customer and finding solutions to their problems.  And the way to find out a prospect's needs and wants is to ask questions.

The new philosophy for salespeople is "prospect interaction". People are more willing to listen to you when they feel they can trust you and feel you understand them.  People also are more likely to respond to questions you ask them than to unsolicited information you give them.  The perception is that if you, the salesperson, say it, the prospect doubts it.  If the prospect says it, it's true.

So how does a salesperson involve the prospect in the selling process?  Your
approach should prepare people to listen to you, to physically and psychologically unfold their arms! With this objective in mind, the main reason for a salesperson to make a statement is to prepare the way for a question.  It is useful to follow every statement you make with a question, perpetuating the prospect's involvement.

Ron Willingham's popular book Integrity Selling offers some useful tips when approaching a prospective customer:

  • Tune the world out and your prospect in

  • Put the prospect at ease and make him or her feel important

  • Get a prospect to talk about himself or herself

  • Hold eye contact and listen to how your prospect feels

Willingham also has important guidelines to use when speaking to a prospect:

  • Ask open ended, direct questions that draw out wants or needs

  • Listen to and paraphrase all points - write them down

  • Identify dominant wants or needs - get the prospect's agreement

  • Assure the prospect that you want to help him or her select the right product or service

It's important to remember that people buy a product or service because of what it will do for them or because of how it will make them look to others.  People don't buy anything because you want them to or because of what it is.  With that in mind, there is a set of questions about your product or service that will have to be answered:

  • What benefits does the prospect receive?

  • What needs and wants does it meet?

  • What problems does it solve?

  • How will the product or service make the prospect look and feel?

  • What is the sizzle in your product or service?

Questions That Help Prospects Make Decisions

1 Alternate Choice
Give a choice of doing something one way or another, never of doing or not doing.

2 Active Questions
This is a question that the prospect might ask if he or she bought your product or
 service.  It requires a thinking response, not a "yes" or "no".  For example, a
 salesperson could ask, "Where would you put your sofa? What would you
 put in this cabinet, groceries or kitchen china?"

3 Assumptive Tie-Down
Make an assumptive statement, then tie it down.  This method focuses on the benefits for which the prospect is looking.  If you don't understand the buyer's wants or need at this point, your assumptive tie-down will flush them out.  Tie-downs include the following: "Isn't it?" "Won't you?" "Don't you?" For example, a book salesperson might ask, "Your primary interest is having resource information at home to help Suzy with her homework, isn't it?"

4 Comparative Question
This eliminates a possible objection to the sale by focusing your prospect's attention on a benefit.  Always tie down your statement by making it a question.  For example, a realtor could ask, "Isn't it true that the operational cost is more important than the original investment?"

5 Multiple Conclusion Question
This is designed to surround a possible objection with benefits and bury an objection.  For example, an electronics salesperson might say, "I know that you want greater accuracy (benefit).  So isn't it true that the size of the equipment (possible objection) is less important than your confidence in the information you receive (benefit repeated)?"

6 Challenge Question
This hits a major problem right on the head and eliminates it, or makes the prospect tell you if there is a hidden objection.  The structure is "Why is (problem) more important than (benefits)?" For example, "Why is the fact that you have never owned one of our trucks more important than the additional profits I can prove our trucks will make for you?"

7 The Feedback Question
This is designed for an aggressive answer or question.  It allows you to reflect an objection back to a prospect.  This makes the prospect try to explain to you why he or she has an objection.  Very often prospects talk themselves out of their objections.  For example, if the prospect says your product costs too much, respond by asking "It costs too much?" This tactic forces the prospect to own up to the validity of the comment.

8 The Decisional Question
This is designed to force a decision.  Its structure is "Am I right to assume that if (sales person action), you will (prospect action)?" For example, a speaker or trainer could ask, "Am I right in assuming that if I do my keynote speech for a lower fee, you will purchase my videotape for each meeting attendee at the 45% bulk discount?

Using these philosophies and words will help make selling meaningful, customer-oriented, and fun.

Dilip R. Abayasekara, Ph.D., A.S. is a professional speaker, trainer, speech coach and CEO of Speaker Services Unlimited.  He specializes in helping organizations develop leaders and helping people think, speak, and sell more effectively.  "Dr. Dilip" is the author of  "The Path of the Genie...Discover and Grow Your Own Genius" (available in video and audio cassettes).  He delivers seminars and workshops on Mind Mapping, relationship building, presentation skills, impromptu speaking skills, sales, and leadership to corporations and organizations.  He also offers seminars that are open to the general public and private coaching in presentation skills and sales.  Dr. Abayasekara can be reached at Speaker Services Unlimited at (717) 612-1600 or send e-mail to:


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